Kentucky rebounds from SEC losses with win at No. 5 Tennessee

Kentucky rebounds from SEC losses with win at No. 5 Tennessee

Kentucky rebounds from SEC losses with win at No. 5 Tennessee

Kentucky men’s basketball was without a starter. His freshman point guard was once again hampered by a back injury. His best player had been “exposed” in recent games defensively. His head coach is coming under increasing scrutiny. And preseason dreams of a Final Four run seemed laughable months later.

So of course the Wildcats, two-game losers in the Southeastern Conference, came to Knoxville, Tenn., and took it to Tennessee’s No. 5 and top-ranked defense on Saturday afternoon.

The UK, at least for a day, looked like the UK of old, shocking the Volunteers 63-56. He played with fire. Oscar Tshiebwe took over during key periods and was no liability in defense. CJ Fredrick led a 3-point effort that found some success against the best perimeter defense in the nation.

The result was the kind of win that, if the Wildcats (11-6, 2-3 SEC) find themselves in the NCAA Tournament and make a run, will be seen as the moment a dull season turned around.

Kentucky rebounds from SEC losses with win at No. 5 Tennessee

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After the Vols (14-3, 4-1) raced to an 8-0 lead that seemed to presage the demise of the United Kingdom, Fredrick punched two 3s that erased the deficit and sparked an energetic effort from Kentucky the rest of the first half. Frederick scored 10 of UK’s first 15 points and the defense set up against UT. Then Tshiebwe, who until the last five minutes of the half had been held 0-for-2 in shooting, took over. The reigning unanimous player of the year scored eight of Kentucky’s next 11 points to turn a 20-18 deficit into a 29-23 advantage.

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